Expectations that is. I’ve been around long enough to remember when a crested tit momentarily alighting on a branch was enough to justify a week-long investment in one of our photo-tours. In what seems like just a few short years, such a fleeting opportunity is no longer enough. In fact, it’s nowhere near enough. We live in an age where expectations have changed beyond recognition, and I hear lots of photographers and workshop providers – and I guess I include myself here – bemoaning the demands placed upon them to deliver fulfilling experiences to their paying guests. But you know, we only have ourselves to blame.
We flaunt our best images across the internet like designer labels and of course in these days of instant communication they get seen. And once seen the race is on to replicate. Any shot of a sea eagle ten years ago would have been a major scoop, but now most – in spite of their technical brilliance – are met with apathy. So those photographers who have paraded their stunning images of sea eagles, red kites and grey seals – they’re to blame for cranking up expectations. And I’m one of them.
But something else has changed, something a tad more worrying in my book. Unrealistic expectations can easily be fuelled by shortcomings in subject knowledge. I’ve been asked more than once by tour guests about photographing ospreys in February (they spend the winter in West Africa), and many other occasions where a lack of understanding of the difficulties in photographing wildlife in northern Europe has lead to disappointment as expectations inevitably go unfulfilled. So perhaps in addition to putting people in front of wildlife subjects as best we can; in addition to talking them through the technical and aesthetic approach to wildlife photography, we should be working harder to provide a broader knowledge base which will create a new generation of not only top-notch photographers but of top-notch nature advocates. To me the two things are inseparable but I may well be in the minority.